Becciu’s Nixon moment

— In media blitz, cardinal insists he is not a crook

Cardinal Angelo Becciu appearing in an interview with Rai News, Nov. 22, 2023

By Ed. Condon

With the Vatican City court due to deliver its verdict in the landmark financial crimes trial in just three weeks, defendant Cardinal Angleo Becciu has once again insisted on his innocence and said he “has faith” he will be acquitted of all charges.

Over the past week, the cardinal and his legal team mounted a full court press in Italian media, with Becciu giving a rare TV interview and his lawyers seeding friendly coverage in local and national newspapers.

Becciu stands accused of embezzlement and abuse of office, conspiracy, as well as perverting the course of justice. But while the cardinal and his team are predicting total exoneration, how confident should they really be about his chances?

‘Modest’ means and good intentions

In an interview last week with Italy’s state broadcaster, Rai, Cardinal Becciu appeared to present himself as a kind of suffering innocent, patiently awaiting his vindication.

“I continue to proclaim my innocence and I can say that I have never stolen,” Becciu said, suggesting that his personal financial circumstances were themselves a kind of proof of his honesty in office at the Secretariat of State, where he oversaw departmental finances until June of 2018.

“I have never improved my economic position. I don’t have villas, I don’t have houses, I don’t have apartments and my accounts are very, very modest.”

But Becciu’s claim to “modest” financial circumstances will likely strike many trial watchers, perhaps including the Vatican City judges, as curious, given some of the evidence they have heard over the last two-and-a-half years.

Among the charges he faces, the cardinal is accused of diverting Church funds to employ Cecilia Margona, a self-styled private intelligence agent, who has claimed to have been paid by Becciu to engage in clandestine work for the Vatican, as well as to spy for the cardinal on other curial officials.

According to evidence presented during the trial, Becciu instructed his deputy at the secretariat to pay Marogna via her Solvenian holding company without explaining where the money was going or why — and later upbraided him for not deleting departmental records of the transactions.

Financial records also show that the money sent to Marogna by Becciu was spent on designer label goods, luxury travel, and five-star resorts.

While the cardinal said on TV last week his own bank accounts are “very, very modest,” when his arrangement with Marogna was flagged by Interpol, Vatican police have testified Becciu offered repay the funds — more than half a million euros — from his personal account at the IOR, a Vatican bank, and asked them to keep the matter confidential.

Becciu is also on trial for his role in a range of complicated investments, on which the Holy See lost hundreds of millions of euros — including the deal which involved the purchase of a London building.

“My intent was only to create advantages for the Holy See, to do only the good of the Holy See,” the cardinal told Rai, echoing his previous statements in court that he had been presented with “a proposal that was totally advantageous for the Holy See” but that he found recalling the details of the deal “difficult” for him and laid responsibility for the structuring of departmental investments on his staff.

But Vatican judges will have to weigh Becciu’s claims to have only ever acted for the good of the Holy See against testimony that he was actually the architect of a plan to funnel hundreds of millions of euros to a friend of his in the African nation of Angola.

That deal, The Pillar has previously been told by Becciu’s co-defendant Raffaele Mincione, would have seen Church money used to pay off the debts of Antonio Mosquito but offered little if any prospect of a return on the investment.

Becciu’s alleged largesse with Church funds also supposedly extended to his own family, for whom he is accused of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of euros in Church funds.

A key transaction is 250,000 euros sent by Becciu to bank accounts controlled by his brother, Antonio Becciu, who runs the Spes Cooperative, a Catholic charity in Sardinia.

Cardinal Becciu has insisted during the trial that it is ordinary practice for Vatican funds to be deposited with individuals, including family members, for charitable purposes, but Vatican and Italian prosecutors have taken a different view, and identified forged delivery receipts for nearly 20 tons of bread, which was supposedly delivered to parishes by Spes for distribution to the poor.

Both Cardinal Becciu’s brother Antonio and the local director of Caritas, Fr. Mario Curzu, are under investigation by Italian authorities in Sardinia as part of their enquiry into the matter. Both have refused to appear during the Vatican trial, despite repeated summons.

Sources close to the prosecution have previously told The Pillar that the priest and Becciu’s brother refused to appear in court because they were concerned they would face the choice either to implicate themselves in criminal activity or make false statements, which could have been used against them by Italian prosecutors.

The pope’s good servant?

Throughout his investigation and trial, Cardinal Becciu has repeatedly said that any suspect activity he may have engaged in was done with explicit papal approval.

Francis, for his part, has pointedly disagreed with that narrative, turning over to the court his private correspondence with the cardinal in which he rebuffed demands by Becciu that he shield him from prosecution.

Ever since his dismissal from curial service in 2020, Becciu has made a point of asserting his deep, personal loyalty to Pope Francis. But those assertions have also come under close scrutiny during the trial.

One year ago, Becciu asked Francis for a private meeting to explain evidence in court showing he secretly recorded the pope discussing state secrets, and allegedly conspired with members of his family to embezzle Church funds.

The cardinal has since insisted the matter is overblown — despite his recording of the pope appearing to constitute a separate criminal act all its own. In his TV interview last week, he sought to brush the incident aside saying that it was a non-incident until prosecutors got ahold of the tape.

“That phone call was already dead, no one knew about it,” Becciu told Rai. “I’ve never used it, but someone else wanted to publish it.”

Whether the pope and the judges feel the same way will become clearer in the coming weeks. But Becciu went further in his interview, trying to paint himself as a champion of reform and — though it may strike many court watchers as incredible — a victim for his efforts to bring financial transparency to the Vatican.

Asked if he agreed with “the effort the Pope is making to bring more cleanliness and transparency to the use of money in the Vatican,” Becciu responded “I can say that I am proud to have helped the Pope initiate these reforms.”

Given that those charged with actually bringing Francis’ economic reforms have repeatedly and publicly identified Becciu as the single greatest roadblock to their work, and that he acted to prevent any external oversight of the Secretariat of State’s financial affairs.

Speaking to Rai, Becciu went further, claiming that, as part of his reforming record, he “also took the liberty of pointing out to the Pope that certain people did not deserve to be in the Vatican.”

That boast would appear to be a bold reference to the case of the Vatican’s former auditor general, Libero Milone, whom Becciu had detailed by Vatican police and forced to resign from office under threat of criminal prosecution in 2017.

Becciu said at the time Milone had been “spying” on the private financial affairs of senior Church officials, including Becciu, and that the cardinal had convinced the pope to order his ouster.

He told Rai last week that he was “certainly” a victim of people opposed to financial reforms, and that “they almost accused themselves by making accusations against me.”

The logic and wisdom of those statements is likely to come under very close scrutiny by Vatican judges like Giuseppe Pignatone who, in addition to being the chief judge in Becciu’s criminal trial, is separately hearing a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal brought against Becciu’s former department by Milone.

While Becciu insists in television that he was a champion of reform and a victim of the likes of Milone, lawyers for his former department have recently walked away from the cardinal’s arguments in a bid to avoid liability for Milone’s termination.

Lawyers close to the Milone lawsuit have told The Pillar that all sides of the case increasingly see Becciu’s criminal conviction for abuse of office as presenting a “gentlemanly way of resolving” of the suit for all sides.

‘I have faith’

In that event that Becciu is convicted, the cardinal would face a potential prison sentence of up to seven years — something he told Rai he refuses to consider as a possible outcome.

Asked if he would appeal to the pope for clemency in the event he faced a lengthy jail term, he told Italian TV that “I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to think about the possibility of conviction.”

“I have faith,” Becciu said. “The same Holy Father, who meets the all same various people I have, has always told me to have faith, to have faith.”

While the cardinal will have to wait a least a few more weeks to discover his fate, many around the case will likely remember the long list of times he’s invoked his faith in Pope Francis to come to his aid during the trial.

In this life, at least, that faith has not yet saved him.

Complete Article HERE!

‘Undignified,’ ‘inhumane,’ ‘wicked’

— Sexual abuse survivors say they’re revictimized during civil process

John Cody’s former music teacher was convicted of abusing 10 students including Cody in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. In 2021, Cody launched a lawsuit against institutions he said were also accountable for not stopping the abuse of teens.

Lawsuits provide alternative recourse, but can retraumatize victims

By Julie Ireton

When John Cody decided to sue his former Ottawa high school teacher and the institutions that allegedly failed to stop his sexual abuse, the 60-year-old braced himself to face his perpetrator again.

But the treatment he said he received during mediation was worse.

At one point, Cody, diagnosed with a terminal illness, recalled the mediator relaying a haunting message from the opposing side that implied he wouldn’t live long enough to see a resolution.

“This was the most traumatizing thing I’ve ever experienced,” Cody told CBC in a recent interview from his Montreal apartment. “This was inhumane treatment, and I can’t level any reasonable or logical explanation.”

Cody is one of several abuse survivors across Canada who describe feeling revictimized through the civil process.

Their stories provide a rare glimpse into what can happen in civil litigation involving large institutions such as school boards, hospitals, scouting and religious organizations. These cases often don’t make it into the public record due to the confidentiality around settlements.

While lawyers representing defendants are bound by professional obligation to defend their clients’ interests, one Toronto lawyer says some of the interactions with survivors could use less bravado and aggression.

“I think that everyone involved in the system needs education or should have ongoing education around this, including judges, mediators as well as lawyers,” said Carole Jenkins, who often represents parties being sued.

John Cody and other survivors and supporters gather outside the Ottawa courthouse on March 1, 2019 after the second conviction of former Bell High School teacher, Bob Clarke.
Survivors and supporters gather outside the Ottawa Courthouse on March 1, 2019, after the second conviction of former Bell High School teacher Bob Clarke.

‘I would be dead’

Cody’s former teacher Bob Clarke was sentenced to prison for abusing Cody and nine other boys at Ottawa high schools in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He has since been released.

In 2021, six survivors — all in midlife — launched lawsuits against Clarke, his former wife, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) and the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre where the teacher had been treated, alleging negligence and other wrongdoing.

For several years, Cody, a songwriter and musician, has suffered from cancer and a degenerative neurological disease. His case went to mediation this summer.

What happened next, Cody said, was shocking and crossed an ethical line.

“Opposing counsel said they were willing to fail the mediation because I would be dead before we got a court date, and they wouldn’t have to pay out,” Cody said, referring to what the mediator told him.

“To reduce me down to nothing more than a medical file that will expire before they have to pay out to someone as sick as me is beyond reprehensible.”

Featured VideoJohn Cody is one of several abuse survivors across Canada who describe feeling revictimized through the civil process. During mediation, Cody said he had to deal with ‘shocking’ and ‘cruel’ comments allegedly said by the opposing counsel, and said it was a traumatic experience. Lawyers for the OCDSB, who Cody was suing, said their client would not violate the confidential nature of mediation by discussing Cody’s case, but added those comments “would not be made to any claimant.”

Ottawa-based lawyer Colin Dubeau, who represents the OCDSB, said in an email to CBC that his client would not violate the confidential nature of mediation by discussing Cody’s case.

However, he said school board representatives have never intentionally failed at mediation to “exact a more favourable settlement.”

“Comments, as you have outlined … have not and would not be made to any claimant, as doing so would run contrary to the principles of fairness, respect, and dignity with which the OCDSB and its legal counsel handle all such claims,” Dubeau wrote.

Cody’s case was settled in July. Details of the settlement are not public.

Four of the six lawsuits are pending, and both the school board and The Royal deny vicarious liability for what happened to the plaintiffs.

Rosemary Anderson was 27 years old when she was abused by a priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kamloops. This staff photo was taken when she began teaching at the parish's school in 1976.
Rosemary Anderson was 27 when she was abused by a priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kamloops, B.C. This staff photo was taken when she began teaching at the parish’s school in 1976.

‘Undignified,’ ‘inhumane,’ ‘wicked’

Civil cases launched by sexual abuse victims can be more wide-raging in scope than criminal charges because they can attempt to assign blame to institutions for allowing or enabling abuse, and hold them accountable for historical wrongs.

Litigation against the Catholic Church for sexual abuse, for example, has resulted in millions of dollars in payouts across Canada. A precise amount is impossible given the high number of confidential out-of-court settlements.

But several victims who have embarked on such a journey say the same civil court system can also be used to retraumatize them.

“I would describe it as undignified. I would describe it as inhumane. I would describe it as being either morally compromised or wicked,” said Patrick, referring to his experience with lawyers representing the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall.

CBC has agreed not to reveal Patrick’s full name because he was a 12-year-old altar boy when he was sexually assaulted by two priests.

One of his alleged abusers was convicted of sex crimes against other boys, but a second member never faced charges. Both men are now dead.

“During discovery, the church’s lawyers decided to take it upon themselves to ask me, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, if I enjoyed the experience of being abused sexually by members of the clergy,” said Patrick.

According to court transcripts, the lawyer repeatedly asked Patrick if his body was aroused.

“They asked the question to signal to me that if you don’t like this question, you’re not going to like a lot of things that are about to happen,” he added.

The lead lawyer for the church issued a statement on Monday, explaining the intent of that line of questioning.

“I understand the plaintiff’s discomfort,” wrote Charles Gibson. “The question was a fact finding one and in no way was it meant to ask the plaintiff if he enjoyed the devastating impact of a sexual abuse.”

Rosemary Anderson, left, stands outside the Vancouver law courts with her lawyer, Sandra Kovacs, in March 2020 at the conclusion of the civil trial over her abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest.
Anderson, left, stands outside the Vancouver Law Courts with her lawyer Sandra Kovacs in March 2020, at the conclusion of the civil trial over her abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest.

Adversarial system

Seven years after filing his lawsuit, Patrick’s case was settled after mandatory mediation, just weeks before it was set to go to trial. The terms of the settlement are not public.

“The system is not broken. The system is working the way it was designed to work,” Patrick said in an interview with CBC. “We need to ask ourselves if we’re OK with that.”

“I think we have a lot of work to do,” said Sandy Kovacs, a civil litigator who represents plaintiffs.

“I think an adversarial system doesn’t actually achieve what we’re trying to achieve, which is the truth and accountability, so that we can actually address this harm in our society.”

Kovacs has come up against institutional lawyers, including those representing Catholic Church defendants for years.

She points to questions a lawyer once asked her client, Rosemary Anderson, who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a Kamloops, B.C., priest in the 1970s.

“She was exploited by a priest and opposing counsel asked her if she was jealous when she found out there were others,” said Kovacs, referring to other victims.

Anderson calls the defence lawyer’s assertion “sick.”

“He was allowed to get away with that,” she said.

Anderson said the opposing lawyer also belittled her, patronized her and repeated factual errors in an attempt to discredit her.

John Cody, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, says the recent civil court process he went through retraumatized him.
Cody and his cat Rootbeer sit on the hospital bed in his Montreal apartment. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Cody says the recent civil court process he went through retraumatized him.

No apology from defendants

In the cases launched by Cody, Patrick and Anderson, each plaintiff asked for apologies and accountability, not just money.

All three have confirmed to CBC that their non-financial demands were not met.

“The civil system does not allow for anything other than financial compensation,” said Anderson. “The church didn’t apologize, in fact they worked very, very hard at defending themselves and trying to maintain their own honour.”

Anderson believes all lawyers dealing with sexual assault cases should be required to take sensitivity training.

Defence lawyer Carole Jenkins says these cases are rarely straightforward and often go beyond whether the alleged abuse took place.

“I owe a duty to my client and I advocate in their interest,” said Jenkins. “And sometimes, no matter how respectfully or kindly I ask a question, it’s likely to be traumatizing for the plaintiff.”

But Jenkins believes there are better ways to approach victims on the other side of the table.

Lawyer advocates ‘trauma-informed’ approach

In 2020, Myrna McCallum launched a podcast dedicated to addressing this very issue.

McCallum, who has worked as a defence lawyer, prosecutor and adjudicator, says it was her experience in the foster care and residential school system in northern Saskatchewan that drew her toward a career in law — and now, proselytizing a “trauma-informed” approach.

Métis lawyer Myrna McCallum has started a podcast to help lawyers manage trauma in their profession.
Vancouver lawyer Myrna McCallum hosts a podcast called The Trauma Informed Lawyer. She’s organizing a conference in April called Justice as Trauma.

“Throughout law school and the bar course, never once did we talk about people, did we talk about trauma, did we talk about empathy, humanity,” said McCallum.

“We’re not taught anything beyond making your best possible argument at all costs. [It] doesn’t matter if you’re crumpling and collapsing in the witness box.”

Her aim is to educate lawyers, judges and police officers about “how to bring emotional intelligence to their practice.”

“I do think it can be fixed,” said McCallum, who is currently organizing a conference called Justice as Trauma, set to take place next spring.

“Do we, like physicians, have a duty to do no further harm to people? I think we should. I think we do,” she added.

A new law passed in 2021 requires new federally appointed judges to agree to training on sexual assault and systemic racism before they’re appointed to the bench.

Cody says he’s speaking out because he wants the system — and the people who operate in it — to change.

“Part of my end of life bucket list as it were, was just to get all of this as much behind me as possible and get down to the business of being at peace,” said Cody.

“I just didn’t think they’d be so cruel about it,” he said. “It felt like kicking someone when they’re down.”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic order, New Lenox school pay $2 million over accusation ex-principal raped a student

— The payout is in a lawsuit regarding the Rev. Richard McGrath, an Augustinian priest who ran Providence Catholic High School — and took the Fifth when asked about child pornography.

Rev. Richard J. McGrath, former president of Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox, in 2006.

By Robert Herguth

If Robert Krankvich could ask a question of the Rev. Richard McGrath, the Catholic priest who Krankvich says raped him when he was a student at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox in the 1990s, it would be: “Why? Why me?”

The Augustinian Catholic religious order that McGrath belongs to and the school it runs that’s owned by the Diocese of Joliet has reached a $2 million settlement on the eve of a trial over a lawsuit Krankvich filed, lawyers confirmed.

Church officials admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the payout to end the civil case.

But records reviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times and interviews by the newspaper show there were warning signs about McGrath.

The diocese — the arm of the church for DuPage and Will counties that brought in the Augustinians to run Providence in the 1980s — has said it is looking at closing or merging numerous parishes and elementary schools, partly over finances. Diocesan officials have declined to say how much money they have spent on settlements and other costs linked to child sex abuse accusations against clergy members and others over the years.

Earlier this year, McGrath was questioned under oath about accusations in the lawsuit that he raped Krankvich. The priest responded that he never engaged in “any unlawful, immoral or sexually improper conduct with any student.”

He also was asked whether he had ever viewed child pornography during the time he was president of Providence. McGrath declined to answer, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Augustinians and secrecy

The Augustinian order, which also runs St. Rita High School on the South Side, remains one of the few prominent Catholic organizations in the Chicago region that still withholds from the public the names of known sex offenders within its ranks, though it says it plans to end such secrecy.

“The Augustinians are committed to being transparent within the bounds of canon and civil law,” the order said in a written statement. “They are presently engaged in the process of preparing a list of those Augustinian friars” with established “allegations of abuse, which will be published within the first quarter of 2024.”

Attorney Jeff Anderson at a 2018 news conference with attorney Marc Pearlman (right) and former Providence Catholic High School student Robert Krankvich (left), who filed a lawsuit against the Augustinians, saying he was sexually abused by the Rev. Richard McGrath.
Attorney Jeff Anderson (center) at a 2018 news conference with attorney Marc Pearlman (right) and former Providence Catholic High School student Robert Krankvich (left), who filed a lawsuit against the Augustinians, saying he was sexually abused by the Rev. Richard McGrath.

Krankvich said, “My hope is with this case getting resolved, more victims and survivors will have the strength and courage to come forward. Because they’re not alone.”

McGrath couldn’t be reached. His lawyer declined to comment.

A revelation that emerged in the Krankvich case centered on an anonymous letter sent to the Augustinians about McGrath, complaining that he repeatedly massaged students’ shoulders at Providence and made them feel uncomfortable.

The letter apparently came from a Providence parent between 2006 and 2010 and began, “Dear Augustinian provincial, please make Father McGrath stop giving . . . back rubs to the boys at Providence.”

The letter said McGrath “also watches the boys in the weight room and does it there, too.”

“Some other parents want to sue the Augustinians, but I don’t want my son exposed to” a legal process.

The letter writer said the note was being forwarded to Bishop J. Peter Sartain, then in charge of the Joliet diocese.

But there is no evidence that anyone from the diocese, now run by Bishop Ron Hicks, or the order forwarded the complaint to Providence or told McGrath to stop, records show.

Sartain couldn’t be reached. Hicks’ office didn’t respond to a reporter’s questions.

The Rev. Anthony Pizzo, who’s now in charge of Chicago-area Augustinians but wasn’t at the time of those allegations, also was deposed for the lawsuit. Pizzo was asked by Krankvich’s lawyer Marc Pearlman what was done in response to the letter.

The Rev. Anthony Pizzo in 2018.
The Rev. Anthony Pizzo in 2018.

“I don’t know,” Pizzo said. “It doesn’t seem to be anything.”

Asked what he would do today if he had received that letter, Pizzo said, “Hypothetically, I would provide the letter” to the high school.

“I can say this, is it inappropriate now? Yes,” Pizzo said about the conduct described in the letter. “However, I also believe in putting it into context. It’s not something I would support in any way. However, back then, I don’t know what Father McGrath’s intentions were . . . just perhaps he may have been affirming the kids, just putting his hands on their shoulders.”

Pearlman said, “We don’t know what the intention of Father McGrath was because nobody asked him, correct?”

That’s correct, Pizzo said.

More accusations

Another Augustinian questioned in the case was the Rev. John Merkelis, who became president at Providence in 2018, shortly after McGrath’s departure. He fielded a strange call around that time from another man who’d attended the school years earlier.

Seeming “agitated,” the man left a voicemail stating the “issue was Father McGrath,” and that he “had rubbed his shoulders” as a student, Merkelis said in his deposition.

After consulting with an attorney representing the order, Merkelis called back the man, who went on what seemed like a “stream of consciousness rant,” saying he had been drinking when he left the message. He told Merkelis, “I don’t want to go anywhere with this. I don’t want any kind of money.”

The Rev. John Merkelis.
The Rev. John Merkelis.

Around that time the same man called police in New Lenox and said he had been molested by two priests while he was a Providence student years earlier, and that McGrath was one of them, records show.

When investigators followed up with the man, he recanted.

But, according to a police report, he said McGrath would enter the boys’ locker room after football games and “stand at the entrance of the showers” and talk with the students “and stare at the naked boys while they took showers.”

McGrath also “blocked the entrance/exit,” causing “the boys to touch Father McGrath on their way out of the shower area,” the police report said.

Questioned at his deposition about standing by the showers, McGrath said, “I don’t recall doing that.”

Asked about rubbing shoulders, McGrath said, “I don’t recall specifically doing that.”

Regarding other physical contact with students, he said, “We’d hug, Providence hugged.”

McGrath’s ouster from Providence

Merkelis also spoke in his deposition about the incident that led to McGrath being forced out at Providence in December 2017 — and that, once publicized, prompted Krankvich to come forward with his accusations from his earlier time as a student.

Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox.
Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox.

McGrath was attending a wrestling match at the school, as he often did. He was sitting in the stands when a female student saw him looking at a photo on his cellphone of what appeared to be a young naked boy, records show.

Horrified, the student reported it to staff, and the complaint landed with Merkelis, who called police.

An officer came to the school and, along with Merkelis, approached McGrath in his office.

“Did you ask Father McGrath to turn over his cellphone?” one of Krankvich’s attorneys asked Merkelis in his deposition.

“I did,” the priest said.

“And what did he say to that?” Merkelis was asked.

“That he would not,” Merkelis said.

The attorney asked, “Did he say why he would not?”

Merkelis said, “He did not.”

A police report says McGrath eventually “stood up and walked out of the office, advising that he needed to get to the theater.”

Merkelis says the phone belonged to the school, not McGrath.

The order’s attorney, Michael Airdo, later spoke with McGrath’s attorney Patrick Reardon about the phone and “was advised . . . that no evidence exists,” the police report says.

The cover page of a just-settled lawsuit filed in 2018 against the Augustinians by Robert Krankvich.
The just-settled lawsuit filed in 2018 against the Augustinians by Robert Krankvich.

The following month, police asked McGrath to come in for an interview, records show. He deferred to Reardon, who said no. When police asked Reardon about McGrath’s cellphone, he “explained that he does not think the cellphone will surface or ever turn up,” police records show.

And it hasn’t.

Deposed for the lawsuit, McGrath asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions when asked whether he had been looking at child pornography on his phone and whether he destroyed that phone.

He called his current relationship with Merkelis “problematic” because he “brought a policeman to my office in 2017, which started this whole mess.”

Asked what McGrath expected Merkelis to do, McGrath took the Fifth again.

McGrath moves near a Catholic school

McGrath portrayed his departure from Providence as a forced exit. The order moved him from his longtime residence next to Providence, he said, to a monastery it runs on the South Side near the University of Chicago.

But neither the Augustinians nor the Archdiocese of Chicago, the arm of the church for Cook and Lake counties run by Hicks’ mentor, Cardinal Blase Cupich, told a Catholic school nearby or an adjacent preschool of McGrath’s presence.

After the Chicago Sun-Times reported he was living there, McGrath was sent away.

An online advertisement showing the Augustinians’ Hyde Park monastery is for sale.
An online advertisement showing the Augustinians’ Hyde Park monastery is for sale.

The South Side monastery was recently put up for sale for $1 million. An Augustinian representative says the McGrath suit didn’t prompt the decision to sell.

It’s unclear how much of the settlement with Krankvich the Augustinians and the Joliet diocese, whose lawyer was involved in defending the lawsuit, each covered and where the money came from.

McGrath said in his deposition that his order next wanted him to move into its complex in Crown Point, Indiana, but that, too, was close to a preschool, so he refused.

He decided to move away from the order, which declared him “illegitimately absent.” Members of the order take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and he no longer was obeying his superiors.

This highlighted one of the many inconsistencies that emerged since then, according to records and interviews.

McGrath violated a core aspect of being an Augustinian but wasn’t kicked out — though it appears the order at this point, six years later, is moving toward expulsion, court records show.

Church officials said they weren’t financially supporting him, but they were helping with his “supplemental medical coverage” — while McGrath made money helping around the house of an older former parishioner, he said in his deposition.

McGrath said his order didn’t know where he lives but acknowledged staying in regular touch with a fellow Augustinian priest in Indiana he regards as a close friend and who knows where he lives.

A broader silence

The Augustinians in the Chicago region as yet haven’t made public a list of members linked to sex abuse even as other orders such as the Jesuits, Dominicans and Carmelites have made moves toward greater transparency.

Cardinal Robert Prevost, a Chicago native and Augustinian, once ran the order’s Chicago-based province that covers the Midwest and also served as the international leader of the group, based in Rome, reporting to the pope. Recently, he was elevated by Pope Francis to be one of the top officials at the Vatican, overseeing an office involved in selecting new bishops, a powerful post.

Prevost had the authority to make the order publicly disclose abusers in its ranks, but there’s no evidence he did.

In 2021, a Sun-Times reporter asked Prevost for help in getting answers from his Chicago counterparts. He said, “I’ll see what I can do,” but didn’t respond to follow-up questions.

Pizzo wouldn’t address questions about Prevost not creating public lists, but said, “Nothing is more important to the Augustinians and me than transparency. Years before it became the general law of the church, under the leadership of Fr. Prevost put into place the requirement that there be a set of protocols . . . to guide all members in the different aspects of promoting child protection as well as in responding to cases where accusations might be received.”

As for the settlement, Pizzo said, “We continue to hold all of those involved in this matter in our prayers. . . . There is no higher priority for the Augustinians than the safety and well-being of those entrusted to our care. We have implemented robust child protection policies and procedures intended to ensure the safety of students and to provide a nurturing environment for all to whom we minister.”

Dioceses are geographic arms of the church, led by a bishop. Religious orders generally operate beyond such boundaries, each embracing a particular mission or following in the mold of a saint. In the case of the Augustinians, it’s theologian-philosopher St. Augustine.

Most orders, including the Augustinians, belong to a consortium called the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, which long has recommended that its members be transparent about sex abuse by clergy, in part by publishing lists of known offenders — a step that victims and many church leaders have said acknowledges the suffering inflicted on the abused and can help healing.

Cardinal Robert Prevost earlier this year with Pope Francis.
Cardinal Robert Prevost earlier this year with Pope Francis.

Airdo, one of the Augustinians’ lawyers in the Krankvich case, has worked with the major superiors conference, according to his law firm biography.

During depositions for the Krankvich case, he repeatedly told the priests who were being questioned not to answer certain questions.

Pearlman asked Pizzo during his deposition, “As you sit here today, are you aware of any Augustinians who have had established allegations” regarding “sexual misconduct with a minor?”

Airdo interjected, “Objection . . . Father, you will not answer those questions.”

“It’s a yes-or-no question, by the way,” Pearlman said.

“You will not answer those questions,” Airdo told Pizzo.

“Father, are you going to follow counsel’s instruction not to answer that question?” Pearlman asked.

Pizzo said, “Correct.”

Representatives of the Augustinians say some of the questions from Krankvich’s lawyers were irrelevant or not allowed in this setting, so cutting off a line of inquiry was appropriate.

Pearlman disagrees.

Besides McGrath, five Augustinians from the Chicago region are listed by the Bishop Accountability watchdog group as alleged child sex offenders.

Krankvich says he continues to struggle because of the abuse he suffered.

“I’ve had several suicide attempts, and I’m still here,” Krankvich says. “So there’s a guardian angel.”

Complete Article HERE!

Rome sets red lines for talks with German bishops

— The Vatican has told German bishops that women priests and Church teaching on homosexual acts are not up for discussion in talks scheduled for next year.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

By Luke Coppen

Rome set out its red lines in an Oct. 23 note to Beate Gilles, the general secretary of the German bishops’ conference. A conference spokesman confirmed that the bishops had received the message — reportedly sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin — during a meeting of their permanent council at the start of this week.

The three-page Vatican document, published Nov. 24 by the weekly Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost, addressed discussions between German bishops and curial officials that are expected to take place in January, April, and June 2024.

The talks — which will focus on resolutions issued by Germany’s contentious “synodal way” — are due to involve the Vatican’s dicasteries for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Promotion of Christian Unity, Bishops, Divine Worship, and Legislative Texts.

The note’s publication follows the release of a Nov. 10 letter in which Pope Francis said he shared concerns that elements in the German Church are taking steps “to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church’s common path.”

The pope was referring to the decisions of the synodal way, an initiative that brought together the country’s bishops and select lay people at five “synodal assemblies” between 2020 and 2023.

Participants endorsed texts calling for women deacons, a re-examination of priestly celibacy, lay preaching at Masses, same-sex blessings, and a revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on homosexuality.

The note from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State said that not all of the issues raised by the German initiative could “be placed on the same level.”

“Some of them have aspects that cannot be put up for discussion, but also aspects that can be subjected to joint in-depth discussion,” it explained, according to an English translation published by the website Rorate Caeli.

The note said that two topics where “there is no possibility of arriving at a different assessment” were the teachings that priestly ordination is reserved to men and the Church’s negative judgment on homosexual acts.

The document provided an extensive explanation of the Church’s teaching on priestly ordination, beginning with Pope John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, which declared that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

The note also cited statements by Pope Francis reiterating the teaching and 2021 norms on delicts reserved to the Vatican’s doctrine office, which set out punishments for “attempts to confer sacred ordination on a woman.”

The document said that “although today this issue must be considered closed throughout the Church,” Pope Francis had encouraged Church leaders “to find other ways to favor greater participation of women” in his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

In September 2022, synodal way participants — including bishops — passed a resolution that said: “The doctrine of Ordinatio sacerdotalis is not accepted and understood by the people of God in large parts. Therefore, the question must be addressed to the highest authority in the Church (Pope and Council) whether the teaching of Ordinatio sacerdotalis should be reviewed.”

The Vatican note described homosexual acts as “another issue on which a local Church has no possibility of taking a different view.”

“For even if one recognizes that from a subjective point of view there may be various factors that call us not to judge people, this in no way changes the evaluation of the objective morality of these acts,” the note said.

It cited a 2001 notification by the Vatican doctrine office, which said that in Catholic doctrine, “there is a precise and well-founded evaluation of the objective morality of sexual relations between persons of the same sex” and “the degree of subjective moral culpability in individual cases is not the issue here.”

Synodal way participants endorsed a resolution in September 2022 calling on the pope to engage in “a re-evaluation of homosexuality in the Magisterium.” It said that sexual acts between people of the same sex should not be considered “a sin that separates a person from God” or “be judged as bad in itself.”

The resolution also called for the revision of passages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church addressing homosexuality, including paragraph 2357, which says that “under no circumstances” can homosexual acts be approved.

This is not the first time that the Vatican has stressed the Church’s teaching on women priests in its interactions with the German bishops.

The topic was raised at a Nov. 18, 2022, meeting between the bishops and three senior Vatican cardinals during the bishops’ ad limina visit to Rome.

Quoting from Ordinatio sacerdotalis, the Vatican’s then doctrinal prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria said: “The decisive point in this regard is not that women in the Catholic Church cannot access priestly ordination; the point is that one must accept the truth that ‘the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.’”

The call for a re-evaluation of Church teaching on homosexuality was also mentioned at the meeting, by the then bishops’ dicastery prefect Cardinal Marc Ouellet. He included it in a list of items that he described as “the agenda of a limited group of theologians from a few decades ago” that had “suddenly became the majority proposal of the German episcopate.”

During the ad limina visit, Vatican officials and German bishops agreed to continue their dialogue over the synodal way’s resolutions.

In January this year, Ladaria, Ouellet, and Parolin informed the German bishops that they had no authority to enact a resolution calling for a permanent “synodal council” of lay people and bishops with governing powers over the Church in Germany.

Representatives of the German bishops met with the heads of Vatican dicasteries in July, shortly after the synodal way formally ended.

In October, German delegates at the synod on synodality met with curial officials, along with bishops’ conference general secretary Beate Gilles.

A committee of lay people and bishops designed to implement the synodal way’s decisions held its inaugural meeting Nov. 10-11. The “synodal committee” will pave the way for the creation of the synodal council in 2026, despite the Vatican’s veto.

Archbishop Nikola Eterović, the apostolic nuncio to Germany, had a private audience Pope Francis Nov. 13. It is not known what they discussed.

Thomas Söding, the vice-president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), which co-sponsored the synodal way with Germany’s bishops, questioned the designation of issues as non-negotiable.

“It’s not about negotiating. It’s about the question of whether you face up to the problems that exist in the Catholic Church,” he said Nov. 24.

He suggested that women priests should be discussed, “and we will then see the result.”

Regarding homosexuality, he noted that the synthesis report endorsed by the synod on synodality’s delegates in October said that sometimes the “anthropological categories” developed within the Church “are not able to grasp the complexity of the elements emerging from experience or knowledge in the sciences and require greater precision and further study.”

The Vatican’s note also referred to the synod on synodality, which will continue in Rome in October 2024.

“In view of the course of the German synodal journey so far, it must first be borne in mind that a universal synodal journey is currently taking place, convened by the Holy Father,” it said.

“It is therefore necessary to respect this path of the universal Church and to avoid the impression that parallel initiatives are underway that are indifferent to the endeavor to ‘journey together.’”

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis Meets, Dines with Trans Women After Controversial Baptism Decision


Pope Francis recently hosted a Vatican luncheon for a group of transgender women, many of whom are sex workers or migrants from Latin America, according to Fox News.

This gathering took place as part of the Catholic Church’s “World Day of the Poor.”

The pope and these transgender women have developed a close relationship, which originated during the COVID-19 pandemic when the pontiff assisted them when they were unable to work.

Now, they have monthly VIP visits with the pope and receive support in the form of medicine, money, and other essentials.

The luncheon was a broader event, with around 1,200 impoverished or homeless individuals also attending inside the papal audience hall to enjoy a full meal and dessert.

This invitation to transgender women aligns with a recent Vatican document that generated controversy.

Released earlier in the month, the document affirms that individuals dealing with gender identity disorders are permitted to be baptized or serve as godparents under specific conditions.

While responding to a query from Brazilian Bishop Giuseppe Negri of Santo Amaro, the guidance from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by Pope Francis, maintains that the baptism or involvement as godparents must not cause “scandal” or “disorientation.”

This nuanced stipulation has been praised by LGBTQ+ advocates.

Pope Francis: ‘Who Am I to Judge?’

Prominent LGBTQ+ organizations are applauding Pope Francis for his message of inclusivity, recognizing that gay and transgender individuals have historically felt marginalized within a church that officially characterizes homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered.”

Francis has been on a trajectory toward greater acceptance, starting with his notable “Who am I to judge” remark in 2013 about a purportedly gay priest, AP reports.

In January, he reinforced this stance by asserting that “being homosexual is not a crime.”

The pope has consistently evolved his position, emphasizing that everyone, unequivocally, is a child of God, loved by God, and welcomed in the church – a sentiment expressed with the resounding declaration, “todos, todos, todos” (everyone, everyone, everyone).

However, this judgment-free perspective isn’t universally shared within the Catholic Church.

A recent synod, a gathering of bishops and laypeople at the Vatican, stopped short of explicitly advocating for the welcoming of LGBTQ+ Catholics.

Pope Francis’ approach has faced strong opposition from conservative Catholics, including cardinals.

Despite internal divisions, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups like GLAAD and DignityUSA see Pope Francis’ inclusive tone as a powerful message.

They believe it could encourage political and cultural leaders to cease the persecution, exclusion, and discrimination against transgender individuals.

Lunch with Pope Francis

Latin America migrants and sex workers had the opportunity to share a meal with Pope Francis featuring cannelloni pasta filled with spinach and ricotta, followed by meatballs in tomato-basil sauce and tiramisu for dessert, THEM noted.

“We transgenders in Italy feel a bit more human because the fact that Pope Francis brings us closer to the Church is a beautiful thing,” Carla Segovia, a 46-year-old sex worker from Argentina, said, expressing gratitude.

Claudia Vittoria Salas, a trans tailor and house cleaner from Argentina, had a personal connection to the recent declaration by the Catholic Church regarding trans godparents.

She shared that she had previously worked as a sex worker to support her nieces and nephews, to whom she served as a godparent. She found herself seated next to Pope Francis during the lunch.

“Before, the church was closed to us. They didn’t see us as normal people; they saw us as the devil. Then Pope Francis arrived, and the doors of the church opened for us,” Andrea Paola Torres Lopez, a trans woman from Colombia, said, reflecting on the changing perception of the church.

Complete Article HERE!